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Revisiting the Kurdish Peace Process: Facilitating Factors, the Regional Dimension, and Challenges Ahead

Revisiting the Kurdish Peace Process: Facilitating Factors, the Regional Dimension, and Challenges Ahead

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This policy brief explains why the current movement toward peace between Turkey and the PKK is the best hope in years.
This policy brief explains why the current movement toward peace between Turkey and the PKK is the best hope in years.

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Categories:Types, Brochures
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Mar 04, 2014
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/03/2014

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Summary:
Turkey’s current
peace process is not the rst
attempt at solving the Kurdish issue peacefully. There have been multiple prior attempts to reach the same goal. However, four factors set the current process apart from previous trials and render the ground ripe for a solution: 1) transformation in the state’s understanding of the Kurdish issue, 2) termination of military-dominated tutelary and the concomitant rise of civilian politics, 3) the public’s increasing resistance to provocations, and 4) the perceived legitimacy of the solution’s parameters on both sides. Furthermore, changing regional dynamics resulting from the Syrian Crisis have been another compelling determinant that pushed Turkey to tackle the issue more earnestly. Yet these
factors are not sufcient to move
the process forward. It is only political and legal steps that can reinvigorate the process and push it to a next level.
Analysis
Revisiting the Kurdish Peace Process: Facilitating Factors, the Regional Dimension, and Challenges Ahead
by Galip Dalay 
March 4, 2014
Analysis
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OFFICES
Introduction
Despite a roiling summer o discon-tent, a sensational graf operation, and ensuing power struggle, urkey’s most important agenda item o the year continues to be the resolution process to bring the Kurdish issue to a peaceul conclusion through dialogue. Te recent process is not the first attempt at solving the Kurdish issue peace-ully. Tere have been other attempts during the current Justice and Devel-opment Party (AKP) rule and prior to it. Yet, no other attempt has provoked the level o optimism more than that generated by the current peace process. For the first time, peace with the Kurds seems to be within the reach o a political solution, despite all o the shortcomings and setbacks throughout the process. Four actors set the current process apart rom previous trials and render the ground ripe or a solution: 1) transormation in the state’s under-standing o the Kurdish issue, 2) termination o military-dominated tutelary regime and the concomitant rise o civilian politics, 3) the public’s increasing resistance to provocations, and 4) the perceived legitimacy o the solution’s parameters on both sides. Furthermore, the changing regional dynamics resulting rom the Syrian Crisis have been another compelling determinant pushing urkey to tackle the issue more earnestly.
Facilitating Factors
State mentality in urkey, or a long time, had been epitomized in the poli-cies, approaches, and decisions o the National Security Council (NSC). Te NSC was dominated by the military and served as the most important platorm or deciding on issues o high politics. Prior to 2000, it also provided the military with the most conducive mechanism to impose its will on the civilian governments, as the NSC secretary-general had to be a military officer and the agenda o the NSC meetings were largely been set by mili-tary. O all topics, the NSC regarded the protection o the republic’s secular nature, its territorial integrity, and national unity as primary prerogatives. While any maniestation o Islamic identity and demands were deemed as posing a grave menace to the secular nature o the republic, the Kurds’ demands or greater cultural and political rights were considered threat-ening to the territorial integrity o the
 
Analysis
2
 
Analysis
country. Hence these demands were cast in security terms and were responded to largely with security measures. Yet, in 2004, urkey overhauled the structure o the NSC as part o its drive to conorm to the EU’s political and legal demands, with the hopes o obtaining a date to commence membership negotiations. In the new orm, the NSC had become dominated by civilians and its overall role was relegated to that o an advisory body. Tis change to the composition and agenda o the NSC paved the way or desecuritiziation o the issues that had been securitized by the NSC previously. In this respect, the Kurdish issue has gradually been recast in political and civilian terms rather than security ones. Second, dismantling the military-led guardianship system, as a result o an active struggle against this system by the civilian politics that took place between 2007-10/11, has released the government rom previous constraints. Tis, in return, led the government to take bolder steps in settling the Kurdish issue. But the recent peace process is not the first initiative in attempting to solve the issue during AKP rule. Rather, it is the third trial. Te first initiative came with Prime Minister Recep ayyip Erdoğan’s 2005 speech in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish majority city in urkey, when he recognized the existence o a distinct Kurdish issue. He then reerred to urther democratization and economic improvement o the Kurdish plurality region as the way orward or tackling the issue. Despite the modest nature o the overture, his remarks elicited stern criticism rom the establishment, the alliance o military and high bureaucracy supported largely by the main opposition Republican Peoples Party, which led him to backtrack on this opening. Te second initiative came in 2009, around the time the balance o power was already tilting in avor o the government in the fight against the old establishment. Tis initiative was premised on secret nego-tiations between Kurdistan Worker Party’s (PKK) represen-tatives and officials rom National Intelligence Service in Oslo. Yet this opening floundered due to the mass arrests o Kurdish politicians and activists within the ramework o the Union o Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) investiga-tions and PKK’s resort to violence. Te most audacious step to date came with the recent peace process, which was centered on open dialogue with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader o the PKK. Tis occurred only afer the government won a decisive victory over the old guards, the previously dominant military-bureaucratic alliance, in a power struggle. Te more the civilian government has gained ground vis a vis the military, and thus elt secure in the system, the more it has been willing and capable o taking bolder and more sophisticated steps in approaching the issue. Tird, throughout the history o the PKK insurgency against urkey, some orm o ceasefire has been proclaimed almost nine times in order to clear the way or a political solution to set in. Yet each o these ceasefires was broken as a result o provocations on either side. Tis has gradually led the general public to develop a strengthened immune system against similar provocations. Te act that the recent peace process withstood a wide variety o provoca-tions since its start attests to this increased level o public resistance to provocations. Tis in return made the task o negotiating parties easier. Fourth, the growing convergence between the Kurds and urkey on the broader boundaries within which a prospec-tive solution would take place is another acilitating actor. In this respect, Öcalan’s letter, which was read aloud to a crowd o 1 million gathered in Diyarbakir on March 21, was critical. In his letter, Öcalan declared two things: first, the PKK seeks a solution to the Kurdish issue within urkey’s borders and through urther democratization, thus effectively renouncing any irredentist claims and violence. Second, the era o armed struggle has come to an end. In the new era, the struggle or Kurdish rights will be advanced through political means. Both o these points increased the legitimacy o the Kurdish demands in the eyes o the broader urkish public.
Regional Dimension
In addition to these actors, both the drastic change in the geopolitics o the region ushered in by the ongoing crisis in Syria and the growing economic, energy, and political
The Kurdish issue has gradually been recast in political and civilian terms rather than security ones.

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